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Gov 2.0: “Chips” or “crisps”? It’s not what you call it, it’s how you use it

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Digital Technology

This post is by Kaukab Jhumra Smith who is attending Gov 2.0 in Washington this week.

Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who literally invented the World Wide Web — the system of linking multimedia documents on remote computers — used a single prop throughout his rapid-fire presentation at Gov. 2.0 today to advocate for the use of open, linked data by government to create global communities.

It wasn’t a teleprompter or a PowerPoint presentation. It was a bag of potato chips.

The packaging for potato chips contains certain data, like the barcode and the calorie count, that’s understandable to anyone worldwide, Berners-Lee said. But not all the information is accessible to everybody, like the printer code at the bottom of the package, or the Americanized term “kettle chips.”

But the point, he said, is that all that doesn’t matter to somebody who wants to eat the chips.

“I ignore the stuff I don’t understand, I give a quick glance at the calories, and I open the bag and I eat it,” Berners-Lee said.

Berners-Lee wants government to focus on the potato chips and less on the packaging. He’s pushing for developers to get data to the public: make data open, make it capable of being read by machines and create links between the data, all without worrying about creating a separate vocabulary or agreeing on common terms and definitions.

Just look at all the terms out there and create data files from the vocabulary already in use, he said: the public will be able to find what they need and ignore the rest.